Slow-Cooked Button Mushrooms

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetMushrooms used to be a hard sell. It's hard to recall exactly why. Maybe it was their styrofoam pop. Their non-taste. The earthiness. The fact that they're fungi? And then mushrooms got exoticized. In my world, that started with the silky umbrella-like straw mushroom. The meaty portabello. The savory shiitake. As I got older and the food landscaped changed, then came morels, sponges for butter and cream, and maitake, coral reefs of crunch and soft, give and take.

Mushrooms got sexier, and I got more fanatical. One of my favorite dishes is a mushroom melange -- some mix of all of the mushrooms above and perhaps some enoki, trumpet, oyster, lobster, chanterelle.

But I'm a bit disgusted to read that. Snobby, right? The equivalent of a bland designer dress, all label and no style.

This dish goes out to the white button mushroom. I cooked them in the slowcooker to concentrate the mushroom flavor (no sear to distract) and to create mushroom consomme-type thing. Just don't call it normcore.

RECIPE: Wash and trim 2lbs of white button mushrooms. Leave them whole. Add to slow cooker with 2 diced onions or shallots, 3 sprigs of fresh thyme, and a glug of white wine (3 tablespoons-ish). Slow cook on low for 4 hours. Before serving, add a knob of butter and parsley.


Baked Panko Falafel with Cucumber Fennel Raita

Baked Panko Falafel I won't make this a healthy eating thing. They're baked! They've been lightened with panko, not bread crumbs or flour! That doesn't really tell you how delicious they are. There are few foods I love more than deep-fried falafel on a plate of cold mezze, but when you're in the mood for something different, there's this.

With baking, you'll get a cookie-like texture similar to a French sablé, not the crackling outside and supple inside of a fried falafel. Plus, panko takes out the guesswork of lightness. A falafel lives and dies by its lightness. Too much flour or breadcrumbs, and the thing turns into a matzoh ball (which is fine, but not what you're doing here).

Bonus brightness comes from lemon and sumac. Who knew that falafel tasted good a little a sour?

RECIPE (adapted from how sweet it is)Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. In a food processor, grind 2 cans of rinsed chickpeas, 6 garlic cloves, 4 scallions, 1 egg, the juice of lemon, 2/3 cup of soft herbs (parsley, cilantro, dill, mint), 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of pepper, 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon of aleppo pepper, 1/2 teaspoon of sumac. Process until you have a 50/50 mix of chickpea chunks and a hummus-like mixture. Add 1 teaspoon baking powder and 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of panko crumbs, enough to get the dough to cling to itself. Form into patties and bake in the oven for 25 minutes, until golden.

For the raita, slice and salt cucumbers and fennel. Drain. Add yogurt, salt, pepper, and olive oil. You can add cumin and red pepper flakes, but I prefer to keep the raita pure when paired against something so aromatic.